In two acts by BELLINI.
Text by ROMANI.
Few operas can boast of as good and effective a libretto as that, which
Romani wrote for Bellini's Norma. He took his subject from a French
tragedy and wrote it in beautiful Italian verse.
With this work Bellini won his fame and crowned his successes.
Again it is richness of melody in which Bellini excels; highly finished
dramatic art and lofty style he does not possess, and it is this very
richness of melody, which make him and specially his Norma such a
favorite in all theatres. His music is also particularly well suited
to the human voice, and Norma was always one of the most brilliant
parts of our first dramatic singers.
The contents are as follows:
Norma, daughter of Orovist, chief of the Druids and High-priestess
herself, has broken her vows and secretly married Pollio, the Roman
Proconsul. They have two children. But Pollio's love has vanished.
In the first act he confides to his companion Flavius, that he is
enamoured of Adalgisa, a young priestess in the temple of Irminsul, the
Norma, whose secret nobody knows but her friend Clothilde, is
worshipped by the people, being the only one able to interpret the
oracles of their god. She prophesies Rome's fall, which she declares
will be brought about, not by the prowess of Gallic warriors, but by
its own weakness. She sends away the people to invoke alone the
benediction of the god. When she also is gone, Adalgisa appears and is
persuaded by Pollio to fly with him to Rome. But remorse and fear
induce her to confess her sinful love to Norma, whom she like the
others adores. Norma however, seeing the resemblance to her own fate,
promises to release her from her vows and give her back to the
world and to happiness, but hearing from Adalgisa the name of her
lover, who, as it happens, just then approaches, she of course reviles
the traitor, telling the poor young maiden, that Pollio is her own
spouse. The latter defies her, but she bids him leave. Though as he
goes he begs Adalgisa to follow him, the young priestess turns from the
faithless lover, and craves Norma's pardon for the offence she has
unwittingly been guilty of.
In the second act Norma, full of despair at Pollio's treason, resolves
to kill her sleeping boys. But they awake and the mother's heart
shudders as she thinks of her purpose; then she calls for Clothilde,
and bids her fetch Adalgisa.
When she appears, Norma entreats her to be a mother to her children,
and to take them to their father Pollio, because she has determined to
free herself from shame and sorrow by a voluntary death. But the
noble-hearted Adalgisa will not hear of this sacrifice and promises to
bring Pollio back to his first love. After a touching duet, in which
they swear eternal friendship to each other, Norma takes courage again.
Her hopes are vain however, for Clothilde enters to tell her that
Adalgisa's prayers were of no avail.--Norma distrusting her rival,
calls her people to arm against the Romans and gives orders to prepare
the funeral pile for the sacrifice. The victim is to be Pollio, who
was captured in the act of carrying Adalgisa off by force. Norma
orders her father and the Gauls away, that she may speak alone
with Pollio, to whom she promises safety, if he will renounce Adalgisa
and return to her and to her children. But Pollio, whose only thought
is of Adalgisa, pleads for her and for his own death. Norma, denying
it to him, calls the priests of the temple, to denounce as victim a
priestess, who, forgetting her sacred vows, has entertained a sinful
passion in her bosom and betrayed the gods. Then she firmly tells them
that she herself is this faithless creature, but to her father alone
does she reveal the existence of her children.
Pollio, recognizing the greatness of her character, which impels her to
sacrifice her own life in order to save him and her rival, feels his
love for Norma revive and stepping forth from the crowd of spectators
he takes his place beside her on the funeral pile. Both commend their
children to Norma's father Orovist, who finally pardons the poor
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